Grammar Minute: Fewer vs. Less

I have a lot of grammar peeves. Instead of silently gnashing my teeth, I figured I’d post about them here. First on the agenda is when to use “fewer” and when to use “less.” In actuality, this one is easy. If you can count them, use fewer; if you can’t count them, use less.

For example, “He played less golf.” Golf here is not quantifiable. You don’t play one golf or two golfs; therefore, use “less.”

Now, if we change it to, “He hit _____ golf balls,” we use “fewer” since you can count the number of golf balls.

More examples: fewer problems, fewer dollars; less stress, less money.

It’s that simple. There are some more complicated examples, but the principle doesn’t change. For instance, we would say “fewer troubles” if we’re using troubles as in problems; however, we would say “less trouble” if we are using trouble to mean difficulty, distress, etc.

Dear ESPN sportscasters, please pay attention.

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5 Replies to “Grammar Minute: Fewer vs. Less”

  1. I love grammar. English composition or literature, and such like were only few of my favorite subjects. I quickly took interest in sentence structure—using granmar ever since elementary school. I’m so glad to know that you have the same desires. Thank you for sharing this nugget!

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